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Bacterial Meningitis Diagnosis

bacterial meningitis diagnosis

If you suspect bacterial meningitis it is advisable to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Bacterial meningitis can progress rapidly, and can result in death or permanent disability. In severe cases immediate medical intervention is vital.

Workers in microbiology laboratories are familiar with the tests used in detecting bacteria and bacterial antigens in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and they are aware of the utmost importance in providing factual results in the quickest possible time. These results are crucial in correct diagnosis and the recommended treatment for bacterial meningitis.

Your family doctor or pediatrician can diagnose bacterial meningitis once infection test results prove positive. During your initial consultation your doctor will examine your medical history and check for signs of infection around the head, ears, throat and the skin along the spine.

Your medical practitioner might immediately start you on antibiotics if bacterial meningitis is suspected in the diagnosis, even before the type of meningitis is determined. This urgent process is necessary due to the seriousness of the consequences if the illness is left untreated.

You or your child may expect the following test procedures used to diagnose bacterial meningitis:

  • Blood cultures.Growth of micro organisms, especially bacteria will be examined in your blood samples by a blood specialist. A sample of your blood might be placed on a slide and stained before being studied under a microscope to assess the bacteria. Blood culture is usually performed if LP (lumbar punch) is unavailable. Serum CRP (CRP test is a blood test that measures the amount of a protein called C-reactive protein in your blood). This value tends to be higher in patients with bacterial meningitis. If the CSF gram stain (cerebrospinal fluid aids in the protection of the brain, spinal cord), is negative and the differential diagnosis is between bacterial and viral meningitis, the regular serum CRP concentration can be concluded to exclude bacterial meningitis.
  • CT scans (Imaging).Computerized scan of the head can reveal swelling or inflammation. X-rays or CT scans of the torso or sinuses might also indicate infection in other areas that may be linked with meningitis.
  • Lumbar puncture (Spinal tap). Collecting fluid from the spinal tap usually enables or discredits a definitive diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. People with meningitis, often have a low sugar (glucose) level and an increased white blood cell count. (Increased protein).
  • CSF analysis also assist your doctor categorize which bacterium caused the meningitis.

Before a complete accurate diagnosis can be made, your doctor will do an skin evaluation which includes:


  • A red or purple rash is usually associated with meningococcal meningitis. This rash may be visible with any bacterial meningitis. A rash is noted in 80% to 90% of patients, within 4 to 18 hours subsequent to the early symptoms of disease.

Even though just a small number of patients with fever and rashes will eventually be diagnosed to have meningococcal infections, these findings should be examined to exclude diagnosis of meningococcaemia and starting observed antibacterial treatment except if an alternative diagnosis is likely.

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